Article: Radio Journalism – An Unstable Profession Where You Start Young and Leave Young

Image © Laurent Poillot

This article is copyright free. Laurent Poillot and UNESCO authorise broadcast, print and online media, as well as the general public, to use part or all of the article for the celebration of World Radio Day 2015.

Laurent Poillot, journalist, member of the freelance journalism association Profession Pigiste and co-founder of the Atelier des Médias in Lyon.

In France, as elsewhere, there have been clear changes in the professional journalism sector, with job losses on top of everything else. In 2013, the Commission responsible for issuing identity cards to professional journalists (C.C.I.J.P) issued 36,823 press cards. Out of this total, 9,363 cards were for freelance journalists, that is, those paid for regular or temporary work, and journalists seeking employment. Journalists in these situations currently represent over 25% of the profession as a whole.

This instability evidently concerns young people entering the job market. A study carried out in 2013 by the French media industry observatory revealed that these days 68% of those under 26 years old are working freelance, a number which is constantly rising, having passed from 50% in 2009 to 60% in 2010. The current fragility of the status of journalists is equally reflected in the radio industry. Of the 37,000 press cards issued in 2012, 3,563 were for radio journalists, 61% of whom work in the public sector and 39% in the private sector.

It is also in the radio industry that we see freelance journalists who have press cards with the lowest income, the vast majority of whom are under thirty. Their incomes are in the range of around 1,500 euros per month before tax. Often these payments are made late. A young female radio journalist working for a major private radio station with national coverage told me that she once worked a full week and was still waiting to be paid five months later.

When entering the profession today some young journalists develop a specialization strategy for a specific type of media, but most must be versatile as they are obliged to work simultaneously in television, radio and the written press in order to pay the bills. This situation poses them a real question: what is my actual availability, in each medium, to produce consistent, quality work?

A study carried out in 2013 by the French media industry observatory revealed that these days 68% of those under 26 years old are working freelance, a number which is constantly rising.

I remember what a regular freelance journalist working for a radio station in Auvergne told me. She had seen more and more students joining the station. Young people provide a fresh perspective. They breathe new life into the station and they listen to a lot of radio themselves. They start working out of passion, attracted by the “hot” news media profession. But after a few years of work, other young people arrive and the earlier arrivals who are not shown the door find themselves with less work. Under these conditions, the inclusion of young people in the radio business is both fragile and unsustainable. In order to protect themselves and their future prospects, young people do not dare address the problem openly. They want to work in radio, so they put up with it.

These days, we enter the profession at a young age, but we leave it at a young age too. In France, by the age of 40 one journalist in two will leave their job. We see it in our association, where few members are above that age. In a separate study published by the Civil Society of Multimedia Authors (SCAM) in November 2013, the main grievances of the journalists interviewed regarding their profession were instability, isolation and a lack of recognition. It is an issue we want to raise in our association Profession Pigiste. Journalists have to, or the younger ones will have to if they have not already, consider updating their skills. They may do so by training, maintaining diversified networks and opening the profession up to people who are not necessarily journalists. ■

About the author
Journalist Laurent Poillot is a member of the French freelance journalism association Profession Pigiste which has almost 500 members. Every year, each time in a different city, the association organizes its “48 hours of freelancing”, the only event where freelance journalists can obtain career guidance. He is co-founder of the Atelier des Médias in Lyon, a shared work space used by almost 70 people, created to combat the social isolation of freelancers and encourage a collaborative approach. It is there that they created the training body
Ilya (which has trained 150 journalists in France since its creation) as well as the collective WeReport, of which young freelance radio journalist Daphné Gastaldi is the coordinator, and one of whose aims is to sell reports made abroad to the media.

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Image: © UNESCO